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Condensers.

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TR3driver Randall Y
Confusion, Los Angeles, USA   USA
My 95 Buick has an OE optical system

But I'll agree that the LT1 is one of the stranger engines to come out of GM. And the optical system (along with several other things) proved to not be such a good idea. They actually had to add a vent (basically a vacuum leak that sucked through the distributor) to keep water from condensing under some conditions and interfering with it.

On the Pertronix, my guess is the main power (switching) transistor is the usual failure. The circuit evidently includes no protection against overheating or over-current. And cooling is a definite issue when mounted so close to the engine and having to switch several amps of current.

As far as reliability of modern systems, I'm not sure we are comparing apples to apples. The old points are certainly high maintenance, and don't work well if not serviced on schedule. But properly serviced, they are fairly reliable IMO. And modern systems are not totally trouble-free when they get old. I've had several ignition problems on the Buick, for example.

And in some sense, points are part of being an old car. If I wanted something dead reliable, I'd buy a Miata !



Randall
56 TR3 TS13571L daily driver
71 Stag LE1473L awaiting engine rebuild
7? Stag awaiting gearbox rebuild

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Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
"And in some sense, points are part of being an old car. If I wanted something dead reliable, I'd buy a Miata !"


Ahh, I agree, and it is something of a paradox. We like to tinker with our old cars, it makes us feel the car 'needs' us. But on a cold dark night??

I would have to say, for me, it depends on the age of the car, and how we use it. My Spitfire 'to me' feels modern enough to expect reliability, but give a nostalgic driving experience. But that 'nostalgia' can be viewed with rose tinted glasses :-)

South San Frncisco, california, USA   USA
And pertonux and all... before pointlesssgstems work you have to have everything else in order...
Example, I thought I had my carbed and pointed 64 TR6 dialed in... but nagging things... this weekend I replace temp compensators on carbs and had also ordered associated gasket seals..
Each tc has an inner and outer... on removing the original tcs I discovered the one for front carb. Missing the outer seal which provided another source of vacuum leak...suffice to say only two days and forty test miles but at last I can say the machine is right and now carb adjustments can be meaningful... and hence ignition matters would reward : static timing,
Tappet adjustments all that stuff...
Then can say no need for things beyond points, but now things like pertronix and San-points methods would work... if there are s a real need. This maybe against rules but Lucas branded are t only components in town. Swiftune U.K. Has points and external mount condenser I think worth a look.i have those mounted. I have no stake in it, just a paying customer. Btw I have luxury two original distributors one brand new old stock...

The point: only when all ignition issues are covered along with vacuum matters will carb adjust
Make sense... and almost vice versa... chicken and egg... damm...
Thought I had it figured out...
Oh well. And only when vacuum and carb issues are done will converting to
Electronic ignition reap any rewards... there.
Wes

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CJD john durant
Southlake, Texas, USA   USA
There are also levels of failure modes. In well over a million miles on points, I only had one condenser failure stop me cold. You can milk them home in almost every instance. With EI it works...or you walk home. So even if EI is 90% more durable than points...the failure mode is worse. Points are more of a “soft” failure mode in pretty much every case. Throw a free set of used points/condenser in the glove box and you are always riding home!



John
Southlake, TX

'55 TR2



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-10-02 03:23 PM by CJD.

TR3driver Randall Y
Confusion, Los Angeles, USA   USA
In reply to # 1489629 by Tonyfixit . But on a cold dark night??
Well, in my personal experience, points are more likely to get me home than electronics! I've been on the side of the road more than once, trying to figure out how to get the electronics to work. (Last time it was at night, in the rain, on my way home from work, and about as cold as it gets around here.) With points, it's trivial to carry an entire "known good" set along with you (just keep the ones you took out at the last periodic maintenance).

I can't find it at the moment, but somewhere I've got a photo of me in a friend's driveway; converting my TR3A from electronic back to (used) points because the electronics refused to run right. We were on our way to Beaverton, OR, roughly 1000 miles each way and the points ran perfectly all the way there and back. Came home with an autocross trophy too grinning smiley



Randall
56 TR3 TS13571L daily driver
71 Stag LE1473L awaiting engine rebuild
7? Stag awaiting gearbox rebuild

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
So how many of you have converted your daily driver modern car to a points/condensor ignition?grinning smiley

My wife will be off to visit her grandson tommorow, a 200 mile round trip, am I worred the EI on her Toyota will spontaneously fail?
No!

I have never been left on the side of the road with points. But I have more than once over the years limped home with a dodgy condensor, AND been left with car in the driveway that refuses to start on a cold damp morning a time or two. Nostalgia has it's place.

With modern vehicles in the last 35 years I have not had ANY ignition issues. That includes one pick up truck that I gave away after 500k miles, and my daily driver Toyota which is 33 years old. pic.

But reliabilty aside. How fussy are you setting your Points gap, Dwell and ignition timing?
Do you eyeball it and call it good?

Here is an exercise for the Points guys. Mark the crank pully accuratly at 180 degrees from the TDC mark. Now check your timing on each plug in turn!

Or, set your points gap while applying slight finger pressure away from the points on the distributor shaft. Now check them again while applying pressure toward the points!
When I did this on my Delco I discovered the points could fire at virtually ANYTIME during rotation depending on how things wobbled.

Now sure, to get timing Spot On you need a crank mounted ignition trigger. But how bad is the points distributor even when it is new and un-worn? From what I have seen on several brand new @1973 Lucas distributors, about 4 to 6 degrees ignition scatter would be typical!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-10-02 05:26 PM by Tonyfixit.


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Fred Winterburn Avatar
Ripley, Ontario, Canada   CAN
Of course you know that's a silly question Tony. Modern electronics can be made very reliable and modern cars don't even use distributors so that variable is gone. As far as timing scatter, what you describe is for a worn out distributor, not a good new one or properly rebuilt unit. I think it was you that mentioned converting to GM HEI? Yeah they are tough and should allow one to use a lower ohms coil for more ignition energy, unlike a Pertronix 1 unit that actually has less energy than points/condenser. If one is going to convert to electronic, it should have a better spark than the Kettering or why bother?
I have always run points and used them to trigger a CDI. Points can go a long time with a negligible change in timing providing the points are good quality and a bit of grease is put on the cam (like 60 thousand miles or more), so not quite up to today's no-maintenance standard but pretty darn good.
I have only ever had one points failure until two weeks ago. The first was years ago when the spring broke on a brand new set of Bosch points on my Volvo 1800. The last set was a NOS Blue Streak that had the fibre washer underneath the spring at the end where the electrical connections attach crumble and short the spring to ground. I replaced the insulators with a nylon set from a newer set of points.
As far as condensers go, I really think the modern multi-layered ceramic capacitor I recommended in this thread is a good option for those that are die-hard Kettering fans. Fred

In reply to # 1489646 by Tonyfixit So how many of you have converted your daily driver modern car to a points/condensor ignition?grinning smiley

My wife will be off to visit her grandson tommorow, a 200 mile round trip, am I worred the EI on her Toyota will spontaneously fail?
No!

I have never been left on the side of the road with points. But I have more than once over the years limped home with a dodgy condensor more than once, AND been left with car in the driveway that refuses to start on a cold damp morning a time or two. Nostalgia has it's place.

With modern vehicles in the last 35 years I have not had ANY ignition issues. That includes one pick up truck that I gave away after 500k miles, and my daily driver Toyota which is 33 years old. pic.

But reliabilty aside. How fussy are you setting your Points gap, Dwell and ignition timing?
Do you eyeball it and call it good?

Here is an exercise for the Points guys. Mark the crank pully accuratly at 180 degrees from the TDC mark. Now check your timing on each plug in turn!

Or, set your points gap while applying slight finger pressure away from the points on the distributor shaft. Now check them again while applying pressure toward the points!
When I did this on my Delco I discovered the points could fire at virtually ANYTIME during rotation depending on how things wobbled.

Now sure, to get timing Spot On you need a crank mounted ignition trigger. But how bad is the points distributor even when it is new and un-worn? From what I have seen on several brand new @1973 Lucas distributors, about 4 to 6 degrees ignition scatter would be typical!

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CJD john durant
Southlake, Texas, USA   USA
I personally have been towed a dozen times for “modern” ignitions! I was towed once for points...and had I realized it was the points, I could have sanded them and gotten home then. I have not said EI runs worse. By far it runs better. It is simply “black or white”. It works or you walk home.

I have never converted a car designed for EI to points...as it’s just not feasible. I have, however, gotten tired of EI failures and converted back to points on a half dozen occasions. Fortunately EI has evolved along with cell phone coverage. Now if the EI craps, you call your insurance and get a free tow. When I ran points as a daily driver you were on your own...and I mean WAY on your own. And you know what? When my Chevy’s would take either an HEI or points distributor...I carried a spare points distributor in the trunk.



John
Southlake, TX

'55 TR2



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017-10-02 07:32 PM by CJD.

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
"Of course you know that's a silly question Tony. Modern electronics can be made very reliable and modern cars don't even use distributors so that variable is gone. As far as timing scatter, what you describe is for a worn out distributor, not a good new one or properly rebuilt unit. I think it was you that mentioned converting to GM HEI? Yeah they are tough and should allow one to use a lower ohms coil for more ignition energy, unlike a Pertronix 1 unit that actually has less energy than points/condenser. If one is going to convert to electronic, it should have a better spark than the Kettering or why bother? "

So perhaps we can agree that the offerings from the aftermarket (Petronix, Crane etc.) Could/should be a whole lot more reliable than they (apparently) are?

I may have suggested the GM HEI as an option for the base of a conversion, but I do so only because of it's availability and low cost. I do not hold it's reliability in high esteem in it's OE applications, but feel it could make a very suitable 'kit' as an alternative for our cars if fitted in a suitable location with a reasonable heat sink.

I personally think some of the Japanese (Nippondenso) units to be far better, but......price, availability....

The scatter I was refering to was 'as seen' on several 'new' Lucas distributors when tested on a Morris Marina hooked to a Sun diagnostic machine back in 1973. These were new, out of the box distriutors, used to to get base-line figures before testing a variety of (then new) aftermarket EI kits.
In the test ALL kits tested performed better than the stock points Lucas dizzy, some were Hall effect, some Optical and some points triggered. ALL the kits suffered from reliability issues, but remember, this was over 40 years ago, when we still had TV repair men!

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Fred Winterburn Avatar
Ripley, Ontario, Canada   CAN
Must have been some real quality control issues back in the seventies with the Lucas dizzys. Not surprising considering the state of the British Auto industry back then. On the other hand, the DM2 distributor on my TR3 engine that I believe to be original and untouched after more than 100 thousand miles, still has less than 5 thou side slop in the shaft. I remember reading the specs once for the Bosch distributors of the early seventies with 8 thou side play considered within spec. That seems sloppy to me and a good rebuild would make it much better.
I do agree that the quality of aftermarket ignition systems has left a lot to be desired. My personal favourite are CD ignitions and the quality and effectiveness varied considerably between designs and manufacturers. Recently I bought a dead Sydmur 6V CDI dating from 1966 that I am going to rebuild just to see how it performs, but frankly, if the manufacturer had designed it slightly differently and used different component manufacturers, it would still be a working unit today. The transistor switch inductive units of the same era were even worse because the transistors could not cope with the heat or the voltage. There is no excuse today for building a bad aftermarket ignition system. Reliability aside,what galls me is the false advertising claims given by companies such as Pertronix. There is also no excuse for bad condensers to be on the market, but when a new condenser costs a little over $1, that's the type of poor quality one should expect. Some of the points sets for these Lucas dizzys aren't the best butter either as I have found, even back in the day from some of the NOS sets I bought to try. Loose rivets holding the spring to the rubbing block and moving contact, misaligned springs, blueing on springs effectively insulating the electrical contact, bad insulating washers, stiff pivots, weak springs, overly strong springs, soft rubbing blocks...... Anyway, one needs to choose their contact points carefully and inspect for any of these faults. It's poor quality that often drives folks to replace the points with something like Pertronix that is actually inferior in terms of spark quality to points/condenser. Fred

In reply to # 1489697 by Tonyfixit "Of course you know that's a silly question Tony. Modern electronics can be made very reliable and modern cars don't even use distributors so that variable is gone. As far as timing scatter, what you describe is for a worn out distributor, not a good new one or properly rebuilt unit. I think it was you that mentioned converting to GM HEI? Yeah they are tough and should allow one to use a lower ohms coil for more ignition energy, unlike a Pertronix 1 unit that actually has less energy than points/condenser. If one is going to convert to electronic, it should have a better spark than the Kettering or why bother? "

So perhaps we can agree that the offerings from the aftermarket (Petronix, Crane etc.) Could/should be a whole lot more reliable than they (apparently) are?

I may have suggested the GM HEI as an option for the base of a conversion, but I do so only because of it's availability and low cost. I do not hold it's reliability in high esteem in it's OE applications, but feel it could make a very suitable 'kit' as an alternative for our cars if fitted in a suitable location with a reasonable heat sink.

I personally think some of the Japanese (Nippondenso) units to be far better, but......price, availability....

The scatter I was refering to was 'as seen' on several 'new' Lucas distributors when tested on a Morris Marina hooked to a Sun diagnostic machine back in 1973. These were new, out of the box distriutors, used to to get base-line figures before testing a variety of (then new) aftermarket EI kits.
In the test ALL kits tested performed better than the stock points Lucas dizzy, some were Hall effect, some Optical and some points triggered. ALL the kits suffered from reliability issues, but remember, this was over 40 years ago, when we still had TV repair men!

wbender Warren Bender
Green Sea, south carolina, USA   USA
what are the "symptoms" of a bad condenser? does the car sputter/ act up and then die completely or will the sputtering clear up and car run ok again (while in the same driving session)? I'm chasing an intermittent problem as described above, think it's trash in the fuel, but would like to understand more about condenser failure. thanks

CJD john durant
Southlake, Texas, USA   USA
When it happened to me the engine started running extremely rough, and eventually wouldn't pull at all. I believe there are a couple possible failure modes. One would be where the internals short out, in which case the car will run rough while the short burns worse, and then it'll die. The other would be if it goes open circuit, in which case the points would arc until they burn, the car runs rough and eventually dies. I don't think there is much chance of it running better after the failure, though.



John
Southlake, TX

'55 TR2



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-10-03 08:42 AM by CJD.

wbender Warren Bender
Green Sea, south carolina, USA   USA
Thanks for the reply. I think, as I said earlier that my problem is/ was fuel ( I have since cleaned, etched, and sealed the tank).
Since I don't really drive the car as often as I should, I was just trying to understand condenser failure, in case it wasn't fuel problems. But it sounds like the condenser wouldn't "cure itself " between driving sessions ( was thinking about heat build up while driving). Thanks again
Warren

CJD john durant
Southlake, Texas, USA   USA
Randall is the EE expert. Somewhere he discussed condenser failures, but I can't recall which thread or which forum?



John
Southlake, TX

'55 TR2

Tonyfixit Avatar
Tonyfixit Tony M
Duncan, British Columbia, Canada   CAN
A good read on bad condensors

http://www.nonlintec.com/sprite/cap_failure/

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